Preventing sports injuries involves more than protective gear, stretching and conditioning. Equally critical is staying well-hydrated, especially during the hot summer months. Because water helps regulate body temperature, fluid replacement is vital. "The best way to avoid dehydration is to pack a water bottle and drink water throughout the day," says Nic Matack, a St. Luke's physical therapist with Denfeld Medical Clinic. For high-intensity cardio workouts lasting more than 60 minutes, Matack also recommends sports drinks to help replenish essential nutrients lost through sweat.
Don't trust thirst
By the time you actually experience thirst, your body is already dehydrated, Matack says. That's why it's so critical that athletes drink 1-3 cups of water before working out and continue during and after the activity. "Being dehydrated affects more than performance," Matack says. "It can also cause heat stroke, a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment."
Matack encourages parents, children and coaches to be aware of the following warning signs of dehydration:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Intense thirst
- Muscle tears
- Extreme fatigue
Listen to your body
Matack encourages young athletes to give themselves a few days to acclimate to the heat and humidity, rather than go full tilt at the first practice. It's also important to pay attention to your body for early signs of dehydration. "No one should feel embarrassed if they need to take a break," he says. "The potential dangers of braving it out are too high."